Movie News & Reviews

'Rear Window' stands up to prevailing movie tricks

Like all members of my generation, I only know if things exist ifThe Simpsons has made fun of it. I wouldn't have known therewere parts of the world that weren't America if not for that episodewhere they go to that country where all the animals live in pouches.

For movies, The Simpsons (and the other, lesser shows like it)reference a lot of stuff that is, and let's just be honest here,boring. Last week I checked out a hilariously bad movie calledFrogs that the video case compared to Hitchcock's TheBirds--you know, like how Pearl Harbor is pretty much thesame movie as Saving Private Ryan--but for those of us who'veonly seen the references, not the originals, how does a renownedclassic like 1954's Rear Window look to eyes raised on modernmovies?

Confined to his apartment while his broken leg heals, Jimmy Stewarthas taken to amusing himself by watching his neighbors across the way.One night, he thinks he sees a murder, but without any way to gatherproof, Stewart's friends think he's gone stir-crazy.

So, Rear Window is good. It's a compelling plot with wittydialogue. Hitchcock's direction is strong on visual storytelling andin advancing that story one detail at a time.

Now that crap's out of the way, on to what's important: is it humanlypossible to sit through it? Ignore the rubber chickens in my hands,I'm being serious. I like the original Manchurian Candidate alot, but I think the remake is more entertaining, in the sense thatthings actually happen.

The more movies I watch, the more importance I place on editing. Backin the day, editors didn't have our fancy star wipes and jump cuts toinflame our senses and remind us why life is worth living. RearWindow's scenes just fade to black all the time. It seems minor,but it slows the pacing down in a noticeable way.

It's also content to develop its characters in ways that aren'tplot-relevant. This is genuinely interesting, but it's a tradeoff interms of keeping things moving, especially with that sluggish editingand a lack of the trick shots, musical mood stings, and franticstylistic hand-waving we take for granted.

Yet this lack of tricks and distraction makes what's there feel oddlyfresh. If it's light on modern style, it's equally light on moderncliches. I do have a harder time watching older movies. Modern pacingis a real accomplishment. But when a movie's got as much going for itas Rear Window, the good stuff shines through without all thetechniques we've drummed up to make it better.